by Cori Laemmle
I started out 2020 by growing. On January 8, 2020, I found out I was pregnant. On January 30, I found out I was pregnant with twins. This was the beginning of what I thought was going to be the most perfect year, and I began to grow.
I began to grow into a mother, and my body began to grow two babies. I had a plan: my babies were due in September, I would finish out the school year teaching, have the summer off, and then take my maternity leave until January 2021.
Not long into the pregnancy I began to have little troubles- some spotting and cramping here and there, that would land me in the doctor’s office for an ultrasound to make sure everything was okay. I ended up there about once a week and would joke with the ultrasound technicians that I really wasn’t there just to see my babies more often.
In March as I was celebrating the end of my first trimester, the pandemic began. This introduced more anxiety, as well as disappointment that my husband, Ty, was no longer able to attend OB appointments with me, and that my parents and brother, who live out of state, were not going to be able to experience this pregnancy with me. But, being anxious and stressed was no good for my growing babies, and growing as a mother meant, at that time, working on ways to stay positive and relaxed.
May 10, 2020 was my first Mother’s Day. I proudly wore a twin pregnancy t-shirt that my mother had gotten for me, and enjoyed a Zoom session with my mother, aunt, cousin, and grandmother. A couple of days before I had noticed some extra mucus and that day I began having some cramping and pressure in my lower abdomen. After a few calls to the on-call nurses I tried not to think much of it and enjoy the day.
The cramping continued into the evening and night, and after another phone call to the nurse, Ty and I decided we should go to the ER to get checked out. As I got out of bed to go to the ER, my water broke. I was only 20 weeks and 6 days pregnant.
I was told by doctors and nurses that if my babies came today, there was nothing they could do because they were not considered viable until 24 weeks. I laid in a hospital bed scared to move for six days, until it was determined through amniocentesis and ultrasounds that baby A’s water had replenished, and I could go home on modified bed rest. After spending the night back home that Sunday, I returned back to labor and delivery triage with more cramping. Another night was spent in the hospital, and then back home I went. My mother and brother came to stay with us to help me while Ty was at work. Throughout that day, the cramping continued, but I was told it was still normal.
The next morning, on May 20, 2020, we were back at labor and delivery triage for the third and last time. After checking my cervix, the doctor determined that baby A was already there and on his way out. Baby B was still tucked safely away in his amniotic sac, but due to his brother’s escape we knew he would be following along soon after.
Now was the time to put on our game faces and be strong for our boys. Being born after only growing for 22 weeks and 1 day gave our boys a less than 20% chance of survival.
At 2:06 PM and 2:23 PM, Ezra Asher and Rowan Shane were born weighing 1 pound .09 ounces and 1 pound 1.3 ounces, respectively. We were fortunate enough to be in a hospital that was not only willing to try but was successfully able to intubate both boys. While their time growing in my belly was up, we were so thankful the NICU was ready to take on the challenge of helping them grow earth side.
On May 21, 2020, grief decided to take its turn as we said goodbye to our sweet Ezra. He had needed extra procedures the night before and was very sick. He passed away in our arms at 10:30 AM. As I grieved one baby, I still had to pick myself up and continue growing as a mother for the other who was still alive and fighting.
Rowan, our little miracle, spent four months in the NICU, but is now home and thriving. I wouldn’t be the mother I am without both of my babies though, no matter how long or short my time spent with them has been. Ezra’s name means “helper.” Ty and I believe he is his brother’s guardian angel. As much as I continue to grieve, looking back, maybe he has been guarding me, too: helping me pick myself up to be as strong as I can be for Rowan.
In 2020, I grew into not only a mother, but a stronger person, as well. I was able to stand up and keep going in the middle of a trauma. I became an advocate for not only my own babies, but other premature babies and grieving mamas. I became part of the NICU community and everything that comes with it.
Although I still grieve for Ezra and the “what should have beens” daily, I also look forward to growing more into this new person that 2020 helped me to become. As 2021 begins, I’ll keep up with my growing as a mother while remembering Ezra and treasuring every moment and milestone with our Growin’ Rowan.
Cori Laemmle lives in Indiana with her husband, son, and their parrot Kermit. She teaches preschool special education in her local public school district. She is adjusting to being back at work after maternity leave, and is learning to navigate the parent role throughout the early intervention process.